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MPs Defend "Integrity" Of Institutions In Boris Johnson Partygate Debate

Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, criticised Boris Johnson’s claim the Privileges Committee forced him out of Parliament

4 min read

Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, has defended the report by the Privileges Committee that concluded Boris Johnson misled parliament over partygate, which she said helped protect the "integrity" of Britain's institutions.

A Commons motion on whether to endorse the committee's findings, which is widely expected to pass through the house, has been debated in Parliament this afternoon.

"We all owe the committee a debt of gratitude to the work they have done on our instruction," she told MPs.

"The work of the privileges committee in producing this report before us today does not just examine the conduct of a former colleague, their work has also sought to defend our rights and our privileges in this place. The right not to be misled, the right not to be abused in carrying out our duties.

"This matters because the integrity of our institutions matter. And the respect and trust afforded to them matters."

Mordaunt confirmed she will vote to support the report, despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak having refused to take a stance. 

While Mordaunt said she was doing so on behalf of her constituents in Portsmouth, she added, that "all members need to make up their own minds and others should leave them alone to do so”.

“Today, all members should do what they think is right, and others should leave them alone to do so,” she added.

Despite opposition from Boris Johnson loyalists, after some called the findings a "stich-up", the Leader of the House defended the report and explicitly addressed the “false assumptions” which have been made on the issue. 

Johnson has previously claimed it was a "lie" he misled the House after the "incompetently and absurdly" tried to "tie" him to previous events and illicit parties. He said the report meant "no MP is free from vendetta, or expulsion on trumped up charges by a tiny minority."

Mordaunt also added Johnson’s decision to resign removed the right for constituents to vote against him and remove him from office.

Former prime minister Theresa May was scathing of those who have criticised the report, and confirmed that she too would vote in favour of the findings. She said that doing so strikes at the "heart of the bond of trust and respect between the public and Parliament" and underpins democracy. 

"It is important to show the public there is not one rule for them and another for us," she continued, echoing a line repeatedly used by Labour in its attacks on the saga of parties held in Downing Street during lockdown. 

"Indeed I believe we have a greater responsibility than most to uphold the rules and to set an example," she added. 

"Support for the report of the privileges committee will be a small but important step in restoring peoples trust in members of this house and of parliament," she added. 

May said it is "doubly important" for Conservative MPs to show they are prepared to act when a senior member of the Government is found "wanting". 

Conservative MPs are under a one-line whip and have a free vote, meaning they will not be forced to vote for or against the findings.

According to one Cabinet Minister who spoke to PoliticsHome, it was "very obvious" Sunak did not want to annoy Johnson’s loyal supporters but should have the strength to "take him on".

Earlier today MPs waited to find out whether Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, would hold a vote on the Privileges Committee report. Many Tory MPs are expected to abstain, including one former cabinet minister who told PoliticsHome they thought setting out to ban Johnson for 90 days was excessive.

Sunak has confirmed he will abstain on the vote, according to his spokesperson who said he will be meeting Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and also has other engagements.

"He thinks it is right to respect the process and enable members to express their views freely without looking to influence that decision," Sunak's spokesperson said. "Obviously, we will respect the decision that the House collectively agrees to."

They refused to confirm where Sunak stands on the findings, and said "he thinks his focus should rightly be on the priorities of the public".

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